Instron Food Materials Testing MachineA key feature of the food industry, Instron is a materials testing instrument which provides LSBU students a chance for practical, applied experience
Manufactured in Britain, the machine evaluates the mechanical properties of materials and components using tension, compression, flexure, fatigue, impact, torsion and hardness tests.
At LSBU we use our Instron to measure the texture changes of food products, for example, to measure staleness in baked goods. It does this by testing the firmness of the bread to measure the degree of staleness by measuring the force needed to squeeze the bread and create a texture profile analysis.
Practical applications of the Instron
The baking industry takes a lot of interest in solving problems like why does bread go stale. The Instron reveals that bread stales as a result of an amylose retrogradation reaction, which means that the starch molecules in the bread start to bond together producing an overall tightening effect. The percentage of water in the bread crumb is the most significant factor in bread going stale. The higher percentage of water in the bread crumb the quicker the bread will mould, but the effect of staling will be delayed because the starches stay looser.
Industrial bakers have to strike the right balance of taste and texture, as well as controlling the degradation process with the aim that bread goes moldy approximately 12 hours before it goes stale. This is so that the consumer has a visual cue of the bread's niceness to eat.
The difference the Instron makes
This means that the machine plays a vital role for industrial food manufacturers, who are always looking to extend the shelf-life of their products when possible. For example, an international bakery asked to use LSBU's instron to measure the impact of altering their ingredients to improve the shelf-life of their bread.
To carry out the test batches of bread were baked with varying proportions of ingredients in the mix.
Carrying out a blind test with ingredients supplied from the commercial baker gave greater objectivity. The bread was stored and the Instron tested the degree of staleness over time to build up a detailed picture of each batch's shelf-life.